Rude Talk in Athens: Ancient Rivals, the Birth of Comedy, and a Writer's Journey through Greece

Mark Haskell Smith. Unnamed, $24 (208p) ISBN 978-1-951213-34-3
Smith (Naked at Lunch) takes an immersive and irreverent dip into ancient Greece to uncover the origins of transgressive humor. Mixing history, literary criticism, and dirty jokes, Smith pays tribute to a slew of forgotten Greek writers: the work of one humorist, Aristophanes, was preserved by the Greek elites and is still well known. Ariphrades, meanwhile, was cut out of the conversation because his plays were thought to be crude, full of low humor, and critical of the aristocracy (though they were quite popular in their day). Smith connects the ancients’ sense of humor to that of contemporary Greece (which he keenly observes on his many travels to Athens) and opines on humor’s essential utility in modern life: “If democracy needs a sense of humor, if radical ideas need to be presented in a way that eases them into our consciousness, why are so many people so quick to denounce comedians and squash uncomfortable conversations?” No matter how antiquity-specific Smith gets, he always keeps in mind the importance of pushing against the status quo and preserving democratic values. This erudite but refreshingly nonacademic work will feed the intellect as well as tickle the funny bone. Agent: Mary Evans, Mary Evans Inc. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 04/23/2021
Release date: 08/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 978-1-951213-38-1
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